How not to do bedtime

July 31, 2015

How not to do bedtime

Bedtime is the last event in the parenting Olympics, isn’t it? It’s the final hurdle, with the finishing line – sofa and wine – tantalisingly within touching distance. But you don’t get a medal, and win or lose you’re awarded the same opportunity to do it again the next day. And then over and over again.

We don’t have children who lie quietly in bed and drift off by themselves. Or babies who go down awake (ha!) They are endlessly energetic and beautiful sleep thieves, so as a result bedtime often stretches on and on. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

how not to do bedtime 3

But who can blame them for battling bedtime? Being awake is a much better option than boring old sleep. If you’re a baby there’s a universe of new things to stare at and hugs to be had. And if you’re a toddler…well, it’s just the full stop to all your fun and who wants that, really? I can still remember the childhood me being forced to go to bed full of resentment at the amazing stuff that was clearly going to happen once I hopped on the night bus to nodville. Like the terrifying programme about the Tripods being on TV. Or some kind of secret snackage society I definitely wasn’t part of.

We’re pretty relaxed about bedtime, on our house, but even when we think we’ve cracked it and it goes well for months, there’s still room for error.

So here’s my less than expert advice…

Don’t treat it like an individual event. It’s a team sport. Call up the goalkeeper if necessary. Play fair, even if it’s you on the reserve squad that night.

Remember with hindsight, bedtime for one child is a dream, and you should have a sporting chance at getting downstairs at some point compared to…

Bedtime with two children. Definitely don’t do it by yourself…wait, what, you’re on your own tonight? Nine months in I’m still not sure how to do a smooth solo bedtime a deux. It’s always interrupted by the toddler wandering in and shouting ‘why is the baby not awake?’ just as the baby’s eyes flutter shut. Tips gratefully received! Send them all my way please…

Don’t forget to do your homework. As someone who’s always making up excuses for why we’re late, I’m great at on-the-spot bedtime stories. However, I was clueless about this week’s new requested story subject, The Avengers. So like a good Girl Guide, always be prepared. And use all your resources, even if it does culminate in you singing a ‘chill-out’ version of Wind the Bobbin Up a million times. Whatever works.

Don’t ever think you’re home and dry. ‘Aha, they’re asleep!’ you think, as you rise, silently and stealthily, to leave the room. But the minute you breathe a sigh of relief is when the baby will wake with a wail and the toddler will spring up saying ‘where are YOU going, Mummy? You haven’t finished the Avengers story.’ Probably both at the same time. The ball is always in their court, remember that.

Don’t make any plans for the evening. As this is always when your children won’t want to sleep. Even if your plan is eating dinner then going to bed. It’s enough of a plan, they’ll still know.

Don’t sneak a look on social media. There will undoubtedly be people stealth boasting their bedtime skills by Instagramming wine freakishly early. When yours is so near, yet so far.

Don’t forget to expect the unexpected. Some nights your children will actively ask to go to bed freakishly early, and they will go to sleep. You’ll both sit twiddling your thumbs and saying ‘now what?’ And some nights you’ll end up with all of you snuggled in one bed, the baby asleep on the boob and the toddler nestled beside you, and you hear their soft sleep breathing and the peaceful look on their faces will be etched on your heart forever and you’d give anything to freeze time as it’s the most perfect moment. 

Even if it did take all night and it’s the wrong bed.

And even once you’re home and dry, don’t think you won’t be in there again in 15 minutes, listening to them breathe and missing them…OK, 20 minutes maybe…

More…milestone cards for mums, things I don’t miss about life pre-children and everything I’ve forgotten about baby weaning. 


  • Claire

    July 31, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Aww, lovely post. I love the “don’t make plans” point! So true! Heehee. Love those moments when you we all cosy together too xxx

  • Darren

    July 31, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I don’t know how we’ve managed to do it (if I did I’d write a book about it) and I’ll probably jinx it by writing this but nine-times-out-of-ten by about 7.30pm one or both of our girls would have asked to go up for story time. By the end of story-time (about 7.45pm) our girls (aged 1.5 and 2.5) generally tell us that they are sleepy and ask to get into bed! They then usually sleep through until 7am. Absolute bliss.

    I’m sure this will all change as they get older though?!

  • Jess @ Along Came Cherry

    July 31, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Haha Cherry always asks me the most bizarre questions at bedtime! Typical as she wouldn’t ever do it at a time of day when I can actually give her the proper answers! x

  • Laura

    August 4, 2015 at 12:21 am

    This post really made me smile Gill- it totally is a team sport and who ever really puts a baby down that is awake?

    Laura x

  • Kathryn

    August 11, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    We are just, just, about getting to the point when ours will all go to sleep quite well but Greig and I definitely do it together most night – double pronged attack!! X

  • Fiona

    August 12, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    That is so true about them sensing when you have something fun planned. Gah. x

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